Champions trophy players to watch

We take a quick look at the players to keep an eye out for at the Champions Trophy. They are not necessarily star names, or guaranteed starters in some cases, but they could have a major impact at this tournament.

Lasith Malinga’s best days are behind him, but can he conjure up one last trick on the major stage? (Photo: Getty Images)

Australia – Adam Zampa
The 25 year old leggie has made a name for himself in T20 cricket with a string of tight bowling performances. His economy rate in the format is 7.04. HE has played 22 ODIs for Australia and they will be hoping he can exert similar control in the format, where his economy currently stands at 5.46. If he can keep it tight and chip in with the odd wicket, he will make Australia very difficult to rack up big scores against.
Bangladesh – Mustafizur Rahman
The 21 year old is only 18 ODIs into his international career, but already appears a vital cog in the Tigers’ bowling armoury. Left arm seamers are worth their weight in gold for a balanced attack and he has 43 wickets at an average of just 16.00 already. If he can carry that into the tournament, then Bangladesh could well spring a surprise or two.
England – Alex Hales
With 44 ODIs to his name, the aggressive opener has been a vital cog in England’s post-2015 World Cup transformation. He averages 39.09 with a strike rate of 95.98 and plundered England’s record ODI score last year, 171. If he gets going in tandem with his opening partner, Jason Roy, England will set formidable totals and chase them down. He missed England’s winter tour of Bangladesh, effectively ending his Test career, but he is crucial to the ODI outfit.
India – Hardik Pandya
The 23 year old is on seven ODIs into his international career, so it’s hard to draw judgement from that. What we do know, though, is that he is an explosive batsman and a fast right arm bowler who can fulfil a vital all-rounder role for India. An Indian Ben Stokes? He was impressive for Mumbai Indians again in this year’s IPL and could carry that into this tournament if given the chance.
New Zealand – Jimmy Neesham
Another all-rounder to keep an eye on, Neesham has played 38 ODIs for the Black Caps. His right arm fast medium can help skipper Kane Williamson to exert control in the middle overs and his explosive left handed batting can help steer the Kiwis to victory as well. On his day he can do serious damage in both disciplines.
Pakistan – Babar Azam
Only 22 years old but already a key figure in Pakistan’s top order. His 22 ODIs to date have yielded an average of 55.08 at a strike rate of 90.23. Pakistan come into this tournament unfancied, so top order platforms will be vital if they are to cause a surprise. The level headed Azam will go a long way to making that happen.
South Africa – Kagiso Rabada
An obvious choice perhaps, but in the 22 year old, the future for South Africa is right here. Owing to the quota system that exists within South African sport, Rabada will need to be made of granite, have nerves of steel and be strong enough to carry the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Pressure? We’ll get a glimpse of how well he handles it here, although there is nothing to suggest the impressive seamer will be phased. He already has 58 ODI wickets at an average of 25.94 from his 35 ODIs.
Sri Lanka – Lasith Malinga
The elder statesman of Sri Lankan cricket, the 33 year old’s powers are clearly on the wane. He hasn’t played an ODI since November 2015, but he’s in the squad and, perhaps, ready for one final showdown. 291 ODI wickets at 27.77 are difficult to ignore and he adds experience to a side that has lost its world class players over the past couple of years. Has the slinger got a swansong in him here, or has he missed the boat to a graceful retirement?
By Miles Reucroft
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